let go of the rope

Let Go of the Rope!

Wipeouts happen, right?

But there’s a trick to getting through them that I just didn’t learn in boxing. But I was recently reminded of that lesson in the facefull-of-water kind of way that only a real wipeout can teach.

Learning to hang on to the rope

My grandfather had a cabin on Pickwick lake and a small, light boat called the Flutterby, perfect for towing skiiers. When I was about seven or eight years old, he showed me how to wedge my feet into the wet rubber shoes of an old slalom ski, handed me the tow rope, and helped me slip over the side of the boat.

Several times he emphasized to me that I should hold on tightly to the rope, so I clutched the plastic handle in both hands with a death grip and anxiously tried to keep my balance in the water as the Flutterby drifted slowly away and the slack was pulled out of the towline.

I got up on the very first try; I couldn’t believe how easy it had been. (Classic beginner’s luck; it didn’t happen that way the next time.)

It was an incredible, triumphant moment, and I was exhilarated by the cool shock of wind against my wet skin and the thrum of the lake beneath my feet. My teeth were chattering uncontrollably, but I grinned and emphatically nodded my head: I’m doing it! I’m doing it! My grandfather smiled back and waved, one hand on the steering wheel of the boat as he watched me.

Learning to let go of the rope

It seemed like I skiied forever on that smooth green ribbon that unfurled behind the Flutterby. I watched the scenery whiz past, I grinned for my grandfather, I gazed hypnotically at the water. And after a while I wondered… Once you get up and ski for a long, beautiful stretch, what do you do next?

Well, you try your luck at crossing the wake, of course. And you experience your first wipeout.

I hit the water face first; the ski snapped off my feet and I was dragged hard against the surface of the lake, which had seemed friendly and soft a few minutes before, but now felt as hard as a parking lot.

Which might have been fine in the end, except my single lesson in waterskiing was stuck doggedly in my mind. Whatever happened, I KNEW to hold on to the rope. No one had said anything about what do to when you fell.

Of course my grandfather saw me pitch forward into the water and immediately pulled back the throttle and tried to circle around to pick me up. When he got close enough he called out. “Next time, let go of the rope,” he said simply, and I thought “Oh. Okay.”

I swallowed a significant part of Pickwick lake that day, nearly lost my bathing suit, and sported a stinging red face for a bit, but the most important thing that happened was that I learned the second vital lesson in waterskiing.

Sometimes you need to let go of the rope.

My first speedy li’l boat

There isn’t an exact analogy in boxing for this, which is perhaps why it took me a while to let go of the rope I was hanging on to so hard recently…

Many of you know I’m a full-time freelance writer. I’ve been writing all my life. And yet I haven’t published anything (other than the posts on this website) of my own. Nothing with MY name on it…

So a couple of months ago I got inspired by another author and friend of mine, the incomparable Johnny B. Truant, and I took the content from some of my most popular posts on The Glowing Edge and created the mini-book 37 Reasons to Take Up Boxing.

It took me a bit more than a week’s worth of spare time to write it, get a cover made, figure out the technical logistics, and start offering it on my site. It was lightning-fast, in terms of ebook projects. I created it, powered it up, and that little baby was off like a remote control racing boat with a spanking new, fully-charged battery pack. Zzzzzzip! and it was gone.

And what happened next…

Approximately 7 seconds later, I began thinking about the next one I wanted to publish. And I immediately set to work writing a book about the biggest, most life-changing lessons I’ve learned in boxing, and how they translate to life. The Badass Manifesto was born.

This book was bigger and certainly packed a good bit more power. I finished the writing in about three weeks of spare time, despite my client workload. This time, though, I wanted beautifully-designed interior pages, an audio version, and lots and lots of extras. This little boat would have racing stripes, multiple camera mounts, high-intensity halogen tower lights, and…

And two months later the good news was that the engine worked great; my boat was fast as hell. The bad news was that the accessories were taking forever. I was bogged down in technicalities and specifications and making no headway at all.

I’d created my second little boat and it was already flying across the water like a speed demon, but I felt like I’d done a faceplant and was being forcibly dragged along.

It’s hard to accomplish much when you’re flying face-first across a lake.

The aerial catalyst

And suddenly this story came up in my life. An image magically floated past on Facebook or Twitter of a trapeze artist about to let go of her trap bar, and I suddenly recalled my grandfather saying calmly, Let go of the rope.

So I cleared my calendar and set to the work of letting go.

I let go of the lovely interior page design I wanted, put off recording and solving the hosting/plugin decisions for another day, and bid a fond farewell to the great majority of further modifications I had wanted or started. I let go of that damn rope.

And I have to say it feels really good to climb out of the lake for a moment, wring the water out of my hair, and contemplate the lessons learned. I feel a little bruised maybe, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be back out there again in record time.

After all, you can’t start your next ride until you let go of the rope at the end of this one.

SO. There are no racing stripes or tower lights, but there’s a helluva fast boat waiting for you here. I hope you’ll fall in love with it, learn from it, be annoyed, intrigued, frustrated, and thrilled by it.

And most of all, I hope you’ll grow from it, just like I did.

PS: Watch for it at 2:46 in the video above. Boy do I *ever* know how that guy feels. : )

CC image by solata on Flickr


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